The Wives of Husbands in Space by Aaron Sandberg

The wives of husbands in space gather on Sundays to talk terrestrial matters. Support-group guise, though they not-so secretly love the martyrdom—the feeling of being left on earth for some greater good. Still, left. They drag cigarettes and drink dregs of white wine before noon, orbiting each other around the kitchen. Sacrifices have been made on their ends, too. It’s a quiet thrill when missions fail, though that’s not quite the right word. Complications. Communication loss. They dream their husbands abort, eject, drift in the scream-silent black vacuum. Things fall apart. Centers cannot hold. The drama of breaking news sucks the oxygen from the room and they tap S.O.S. bulletins with their newly-painted nails on Formica tables. Hearing the phrase feared dead makes them feel alive. Distance is a rush the wives get closer to as they imagine filling voids left in their beds. You are going to lose us before we lose you, wives whisper to the TV, signal to each other, smile. They imagine getting what they want. Wives of husbands in space wonder how they will be when they return. Catatonic? Listless? Itching to do it again? Infected with alien disease, sleeper-cell biologies waiting to break free? Or worst of all—the same? The wives sit alone together. Have they always been like this? Strange, each thinks, blurring the boundaries of their unknown worlds, counting down to when each will wander to explore more. When each will escape the other’s gravity. When each will be too far to reach for—or even to wish to come back home.

AARON SANDBERG — Aaron has appeared or is forthcoming in Phantom Kangaroo, Qu, Asimov’s, No Contact, Alien Magazine, The Shore, The Offing, Sporklet, Right Hand Pointing, Halfway Down the Stairs, Crow & Cross Keys, Burningword Journal, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. A multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, you can see him—and his writing—on Instagram @aarondsandberg.

Art by MICHAEL TODD COHEN — Michael’s work appears in Columbia Journal, Pithead Chapel, JMWW Journal and HAD, among others, and has been included in Best Micro Fictions, the Connecticut Literary Anthology, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives with a poet-husband and two illiterate chihuahuas, by a rusty lighthouse, in New England. For more: